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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Make balanced meals for kids a reality

Teach your children about portions and also let them understand that there are many who do not get even one proper meal in a day.


July 29, 2018 11:20:23 am
Healthy food at home. Happy family in the kitchen. Mother and children daughters are preparing the vegetables and fruit. Meal time is fun! (Photo: Getty Images)

A balanced diet requires a commitment from parents and children! Get the little ones involved in the process.

By Naavnidhi K Wadhwa

Walk into any shopping centre or mall and you are sure to spot a dozen or so kids making a beeline to fast food joints. What’s interesting is that they are accompanied by the very same parents who sit on sofas complaining about the bad eating habits of their children. Food that is full of artificial preservatives, colour and sweeteners, semi-cooked and then frozen to be processed later and come out of packaging can never ever be counted as nutritious. Delicious maybe, but never healthy!

One reason for this trend could be the failing social structure where eating outside is a regular scene, where pocket money is topped at just a single request, where filling a child’s stomach is more important than giving a nutritious meal, where food cooked in the kitchens at home go cold and stale and eventually find their way into the dustbins.

However, the blame cannot rest squarely on junk food alone. Globalization has shrunk the world and foods from every country are easily accessible anywhere and almost everywhere. Balance is the key word to this dilemma. A sustainable, complimenting balance of the two worlds of junk and nutrition is the only answer.

As a Coach for the Psychology of Eating, I strongly recommend that parents take their children into confidence when it comes to the food habits of the family. Let them understand and learn the importance of nutrients available naturally in each food item in the pantry / kitchen shelf. Try and avoid making it a classroom like scenario and instead have fun. Vitamins are already labelled as per the alphabets; let the children have fun identifying the food items providing that particular vitamin and sort or draw or mark them on a chart.

Create meal menus

Plan a weekly meal menu with your children and involve them in shopping for, storing and, in case of older children, chopping them also with you. The meal menu can have a decent balance of junk and nutritious food items.

Fixed meal times

Fix your meal times and stick to them. While it might be difficult to coordinate and get the entire family to have breakfast and lunch together, ensure that dinner is always served on time and eaten with everyone sitting down together. Let the children make salads, announce the meals, serve too if possible. This brings a sense of usefulness and responsibility.

Remove distractions

Switch off all gadgets and either keep on silent or ignore phone calls during meal times. Start talking and sharing details of each other’s day. This will bring the family closer as well.

Minimise processed foods

Pickles, chutneys, sauces, jams, papads are tastiest when made at home or bought from the aunty next door. Freshly made curd is healthier than store bought ones. Include these condiments as fresh as possible. Since these cannot be eliminated completely, reduce the portions and serve only a limited amount at the table.

Keep a cheat day

Pre-decide a cheat day where everyone in the family is allowed to binge on junk food. The key here is to be honest and limit intake. Teach your children about portions and also let them understand that there are many who do not get even one proper meal in a day.

Junk food is a part and parcel of our lifestyle now and there is no way to eliminate this menace. The only way to deal with it is to be wise and accommodative to ensure a mix of nutrition and freshness in the junk as well.

(The writer is a coach for psychology of eating, diet planner and NLP expert.)

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